As a child I looked at the illustrations of books before I read them. I had a guilty feeling that this wasn’t the right thing to do and indicated laziness and a lack of seriousness, but I now realise that my imagination was visual, maybe even hyperphantasic. Talking to my brother recently about the books we read as children, I was surprised to find that these illustrations made little impression on him, but several impressed me greatly and I’ve remembered the artists ever since, even when I’ve stopped liking the books.

Maxwell Armfeld’s art nouveau-ish illustrations to Hans Anderson, in line and colour, published in 1910, perfectly matched the cruel and magical mind of the author. His depictions of the tortured Girl Who Trod on a Loaf and Mermaid were, to me, inseparable from the narratives.

Later I discovered Rex Whistler’s Anderson, far superior artistically, (below) but I still picture Anderson’s tales like Armfeld did. Apart from recognising Anderson’s sadism I now find his moralising intolerable, but some of his best stories, like The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Snow Queen, still resonate.

R.S.Sherriffs’ strong graphic style jumped out at me from a now almost-forgotten book of short stories. His still-remembered picture calls to mind an episode in which a military officer rides through the street ogling the girls. Only through my memory of the picture do I remember that I’d never come across the word “ogling” till then and wasn’t sure what it was or how he did it.


Sherriffs was a perceptive caricaturist who did a few children’s books and was one of the artists who introduced me to the potential of illustration. My liking for him was reinforced by his vignettes in Punch (above), which I came across in the doctor’s waiting room. His style was perfectly suited to the Rubaiyat (top) and made a lovely edition.

As it happens, the mocked and maligned Ladybird books employed illustrators with a talent for literal representation, which, in the case of their natural history titles, like What to Look For in Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter (below) was wholly appropriate, and brought in Royal Academician Charles Tunicliffe, a wildlife illustrator who specialised in birds. He did pictures for Brooke Bond tea cards and the RSPB magazine as well as the Ladybird books and introduced me to the wonderful potential of both natural history and illustration. The RA had an exhibition of his work in 2017.


I loved Enid Blyton’s Adventure books between the ages of 10 and 12 and was quite indifferent to the weakness of her plots and characterisation, to say nothing of her casual racism. But even more than the stories I loved the illustrations by Stuart Tresilian (below) and studied them closely. Tresilian, the son of a clerk, studied at the RCA (as did Tunicliffe) and taught at the Regent Street Polytechnic. He was a member of the Art Workers Guild and the Society of Graphic Artists and became respectively Master and President. He is well known for his illustrations to Kipling and also did work for educational  natural history publications. He is the least of the illustrators mentioned here, but I wasn’t so discriminating at the age of ten and liked his work a lot.



IMG_20180808_145651861‘Expanded Narcissistic Envelope’, Toby Ziegler

Only a week left to visit the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, which is the best I have ever seen. It was co-ordinated by Grayson Perry and reflects his wit, irony, topical interests and attention to the vernacular. The older generation, exhibiting for fifty years, are there – Hockney, Tilson, Allen Jones, Antony Green and others – and there is the usual sprinkling of amateurs, some of whom have almost no artistic ability.  Among the clever and the weird there are conventional paintings that might have been exhibited a hundred years ago.

This is the largest ever summer exhibition, the selectors considering 20,000 submitted works and choosing almost 1,400. They are spread throughout Burlington House, including the recent development which allows you into the RA Schools. All the exhibits are online, but this is my personal selection.

228 Scream‘Scream’, Sophie Jansson

artwork_52026_1_disp‘The Bored Horse’, Henry Bateman.
Who chose this?  Indeed – who bought it?

artwork_66637_1_full farage - 260‘Nigel Farage MEP’, David Griffiths.
Devotional but does not capture the subject.

artwork_67067_1_full fortitude parkhouse‘Fortitude’, Sarah Parkhouse.
Hung high in the gallery but the first work you see.

franz hals embodiment - anastasia belous‘Franz Hals Embodiment’, Anastasia Belous.
One of the works in the show that make you wonder, what is the point of art?

Gallery IIIGallery III, hung by Grayson Perry.

Gloria Neave - Mrs Margaret Neave”Mrs Margaret Neave’, Gloria Neave.
Another of the traditional portraits in the show.

grayson perrriesA selection of the many, less conventional, portraits of Grayson Perry.

Heather Nevay - The Party‘The Party’, Heather Nevay.
Reminiscent of Richard Dadd and the Brotherhood of Ruralists. Creepy.

IMG_20180808_150046949_BURST000_COVER_TOP‘Untitled (Triste), Charles Avery

IMG_20180808_154419075‘Libby Heart’, Sophie Dury

IMG_20180808_150158552‘Star Cluster’, John Maine

unasfhsg‘Unfaffordable Housing’, Carl Godfrey. ‘The All-Seeing’, Richard C. Smith

artwork_63438_1_full okun‘A Man and a Woman’, Sasha Okun

IMG_20180808_155045162‘The Inspection: Kim Jong Un & Kim Jong Il Inspecting Lady Gaga’s Homage to Duchamp Urinal’, David Axtell

john wragg girl in the black dress‘Girl in the Black Dress’, John Wragg

len grey - no 222
‘Good Morning, Mr Corbyn. How are the Speed Trials Going?’ Len Grey

mach burlington ho‘The Battle of Burlington House’, David Mach

mark denton rollers‘Rollers’, Mark Denton.
A subversion of Tretchikoff’s ‘Balinese Girl’, now collectable because of its kitchiness.

martin cox afternoon at the angel‘Afternoon at the Angel’, Martin Cox

peter jones bunny‘Bunny’, Peter Jones.
Something always unnerving about dolls and pictures of bunny rabbits.

sharon wilson cabinet membersYet Sooty glove puppets are not in the slightest bit unnerving.
‘Cabinet Members’, Sharon Wilson.

taxonomy‘The Taxonomy of the Cornflake’,  Anne Griffiths.
A bizarrely autistic classification of cornflakes, accompanied by a text that analyses size, shape, edge formation, make, and so on.

rego - human cargo - detail‘Human Cargo’ (detail), Paula Rego.
One panel of a triptych, the most powerful and serious work in the show.